A Plan or a Part: Humanity’s Role in the Unfolding Story of God

Probably the greatest single lie ever bought by humanity is the claim that man is the rightful center of all things. Self-actualization is the highest goal. Man should then do what feels right or what is natural to him, so that he achieves the best life. This was the garden lie. The lie that says, “write your own story, for there is there no grand over-arching story to bring you meaning.” Humanity has been tainted ever since; warring with one another, killing, maiming…all in the name of self.

Sadly, as often happens, the culture that has bought the lie has shaped the church, rather than the church shaping the culture. We’ve taken this same old lie and christianized it. We even have a verse to back up our claim. There could not be a more clearer example of ignoring context than when most people quote Jeremiah 29:11. There, God states He has a plan for Isreal, to give her prosperity, hope and a future. It is a great promise, please do not misunderstand. The problem that arises is that so many churches have misinterpreted and misapplied it. Instead of a grand promise made to Israel (the Church), it has become the christian version of the garden lie. Man is the center. God is the cosmic genie, dispensing gifts to those who please Him. He is nothing more than an impersonal, mechanical force that mysteriously governs the universe. The verse has been stripped from it’s context and thus it’s communal aspect. Individuality is assumed over and above community. The message becomes, God will make you fat and rich. The allure of following God is not because He is God, but because He’ll make you prosperous. That is the bill of goods we (I used that term lightly) are selling in a lot of churches and we wonder why the church looks like the culture and not the other way around (sometimes I wonder if these gatherings can even be called “churches”).
Is this all we, as christians, can offer the world? Nothing but a new twist on an old lie? I strongly reject the philosophy the church has adopted. The Bible is clear about what the truth is. God is sovereign over His creation and thus sovereign over the story unfolding within it. The redemption story is His story. God is speaking as each new day unfolds. New chapters are written. He is the author and we are merely actors in His drama (I am affirming God’s sovereignty over and above man’s choice. While we make “choices” in this life that we are responsible for, mysteriously, God is behind it all, writing the story of our lives). You see, God has a plan and in His plan, His people have hopes and futures. They have riches beyond comprehension. The difference is that the story is about God, not humanity. He grants us certain parts to play. All of us have supporting roles, none are given leadings roles.
The glorious truth of the Scriptures is that God has assigned us parts, not plans. We have roles to play, not story-lines to write. Perhaps, with this perspective, we might suffer better, or rejoice better or just love God and people better. What if we were content with even having a part. Would life seem more simple? Would we take our lumps with joy as James commands? Would the world take notice? Would the real christians shine and the mediocre come to true faith? There is great importance that we get this right. The world needs us to get it right. Jesus is counting on us to get it right! The story is about God and His glory. Our job is to know our role and act our hearts out for God and His Kingdom!

Jesus the Priest

During my testimony, I described how Jesus relates to us in three ways. As Prophet, Priest and King. I’d like to discuss the Priest relation. I always got the obvious priestly references. In Hebrews, he’s called our high priest. We know he is not unsympathetic because he was tempted in every way that we were. I know he makes intercession before God the Father for us. Like the Priests of old, Jesus was not only offered up the sacrifice for my sin, but was the sacrifice for my sin. It’s is quite obvious that Jesus relates to me as the Priest. I’ve recently come across some very subtle ways in which Jesus relates to me as Priest.

Have you ever wondered why Jesus waited until he was 30 years old before starting his ministry? I’ve always wondered that. I was reading Numbers last night (I finally made it through Leviticus) and I came across a census. That’s how Numbers gets it’s name…because God wanted to count the people. The warriors were counted, those 20 years old and up. They number above 600,000. Big army, even for today’s standards. The priests are then counted; those Levites who are eligible to serve in the tabernacle. There was a slight difference in who was counted. Only men, aged 30 and above were allowed to serve in the tabernacle. Did you catch that? 30. It hit me. Why did Jesus wait till He was 30 to start His earthly ministry? In a simple and subtle way, He was proclaiming to His Jewish audience that He is the last High Priest. Nothing negates his eligibility. Not even His age. It’s amazing. Even to the most innate details, God is telling His story…no i is left undotted, no t’s are left uncrossed. This, of course, got me thinking. Could there be more?

As I read, there are many more conditions for being a Priest. But, Jesus seems to break a lot of those rules. For instance, priests aren’t allowed to touch dead people (unless its immediate family). Priests aren’t allowed to touch lepers. Priests must marry virgins. They cannot marry divorced women, defiled women or widowed women. The litany of rules continues. Jesus never touched a dead person. When he touched them they came to life. Jesus never touched a leper, for when he touched them, they became well. The Bride of Christ is a spotless bride, cleansed from her whoredom, completely changed into the virgin. Jesus is our Priest. In more ways than we can ever imagine.

I guess this was saying to me that God is so much bigger than I can ever imagine. He fits into no box. He transcends all. He is above all. He is in control of all. And He is good. For that I am grateful. Be encouraged. God’s detail in laying out the life of His Son also finds it’s way into our lives as well. God cares that much about telling his story, that he has not forgotten the details. He knows the ends and He will provide the means…this I know to be true.

~sdg

Mindful of God


“For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly.” – I Peter 2:19

The injustice in our world is rampant. Sin reigns in the hearts of people and the end result has been great injustice. Slavery, to this day, is still practiced in the world. Men beat their wives because they cooked the meal wrong, or worse, burned it. Children are abused, both physically and emotionally. Injustice is all around us. Because of the suffering that exists, our world has created a certain aura around those who suffer. Suffering in and of itself has become a means of righteousness. I think that Peter was aware of this and gave us a warning. I believe Peter is pointing us away from this empty suffering. The reason I believe this is the little clause he added to the sentence…”mindful of God.” Without this clause, the focus is no longer on suffering, but God Himself. It is only when we suffer with God on our mind that we suffer graciously. What does it mean to be mindful of God? I think it is an important question to ask. If we are to suffer as God has called us to, we ought to know what this clause means. The perfect example was Jesus. How did he suffer? What was it about his disposition and actions that made his suffering worthwhile? I think Peter answers our question. In v.23, Peter tells us how Jesus responded to the injustice he suffered. “When He was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting Himself to Him who judges justly.” I believe we have big shoes to fill. Let’s discuss this one part at a time. Jesus did not return evil for evil. There was no tit for tat, no eye for an eye. As He preached in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus turned the other cheek. This is truly amazing A God who does that which He commands His creation! To deepen the thought, consider this; Jesus is God, God has decreed that revenge is His, He will repay for injustice. In perfect obedience, Jesus laid aside His rights as God and subjected Himself to the authority of the Father and live in the manner of a servant. That is the type of God we serve; One who will show us how to live.

Let’s continue pondering the verse. Peter ends by saying that while suffering, Jesus did not threaten. Let me stop for a moment. Here is the King of the Universe, with all authority in heaven and earth, hanging from a tree. I be the legions of angels were ready to strike. Flaming sword and chariot were waiting for even a breath of an order to engage. Or even yet, He could of justly spoken to them their coming condemnation. He could have spoken in great detail about the horrible and insatiable pain that awaited them for their crime. Yet, He was silent before them, like a lamb led to the slaughter. Instead, Peter tells us what Jesus did. He entrusted Himself to God, the Father, who judges justly. Wow! That is what it means to to be mindful of God in our suffering. To know that He is the one who judges justly. He is the One with ultimate final authority. He is sovereign overall. He is the righteous One who executes justice. No matter what suffering you endure, if you do so unjustly, consider God! Will He not set the account right in the end? Does He not delight in making things new and right? Be mindful of Jesus in your unjust suffering. Know that your injustice is not forever. It is a mist that disappears in the morning.

There is one implication I would like to address. If we must suffer with God on our mind as ultimate judge, what does this mean for those who suffer and are not mindful of Him? They suffer in vain. We are meant to identify with Jesus in our suffering and if we do so without considering Him, we will revile in return, we will threaten and the anger that wells up inside of us over our perceived injustice will ultimately destroy us if God allows it to.

Dear friends, be mindful of God in your suffering. Don’t be like the world. Be like Jesus. Ask for the strength and He will supply it!

~sdg

Foremost Sinner

“The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am foremost. But I have received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.” – I Timothy 1:15-16 (ESV)

These two verses have great meaning for me. I feel deeply when Paul says that he is foremost among sinners. Another translation says “chief of sinners.” I have felt that way. That feeling creeps up often, especially after sinning. But there is hope in those verses. The chief sinner, the Christian killer was a recepient of mercy for God’s purposes…that Paul might be a vessel for mercy and example of Jesus’ long-suffering patience. If Paul, chief sinner, can be saved and not only saved, but used to bring Gospel to billions upon billions; there is hope for me. I am a woefully unclean man. I seek to serve the Awesomely pure God. I have no hope, except that God might find mercy and bestow it upon me so that He might use me to impact others for Christ. Perhaps just one…perhaps I will impact more, but the point is that my salvation, my gift of mercy is for the benefit of another. I am to be an example, I am to be an example that no one is beyond the reach of God. He saves whom He saves, and no one is beyond His grasp.

Mixed in the message of great hope is a subtle, yet all-encompassing truth. While I still wrestle with the “hows” of election, I can say that I firmly do not doubt its truth and power. I believe the verse also teach that God elects or choses those who will believe. he enables the heart of man to know Him and to know Him is to choose Him. The Father is irresistible. His beauty is immutable. His presence is insatiably satisfying. Let’s look at the last part of the txt. Paul says he has been raised up as an example to those who were to believe in Jesus for eternal life. The structure of this sentence gives rise to the fact that in Paul’s mind, God has chosen those who will believe, just like Paul was chosen to believe. If God, through Paul, wanted to convey a different message, the text would be worded differently. IF the message is one of free will, the text would read, “Christ might display his perfect patience as an example so that some would believe in him for eternal life.” That rendering of the sentence conveys an entirely different message. Paul becomes an example to all and God is then hoping that some might believe because of Paul’s example of Christ’s patience. The Holy Spirit did not inspire Paul to write that way. He inspired a text that teaches election. Paul was to be displayed as an example to those who were to be saved. Paul’s example was for those who were to be saved…there was no choice. “Those” were going to believe in Jesus for eternal life. There is no qualifier. No ifs, ands or buts. “Those” would believe because of the mercy shown Paul by the Father through Jesus Christ.

We (current believers) are part of the “those.” We have believed in Jesus because God, in His great mercy and perfect council, saw fit to shed light into our darkened souls and make rivers of living water flow from our hearts of stone. For those of you who are not Christians, believe on Jesus. Look at Paul, he killed Christians and God still saw fit to show mercy. you can likewise receive His mercy. Believe on Jesus for eternal life and be counted among the “those who were to believe!!”.

~sdg

Determined & Undefiled

“But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank. Therefore he asked the chief of the eunuchs to allow him not to defile himself.” – Daniel 1:8 (ESV)

Daniel had determined in his mind he would not defile himself, so he took action and asked for a healthier substitute. He didn’t forsake food all together. He didn’t go on a hunger strike. He sought out to glorify God by keeping to God’s commanded dietary laws. God granted favor to Daniel because of Daniels unrelenting determination to honor Him by keeping His commandments. I wonder what would of happened had Daniel practiced what so many Christians practice when it comes to remaining pure before the Lord. I wonder if Daniel had practiced the passive avoidance if he would have failed like so many do day in and day out. I know that this practice has not worked for me. In my battles against lust, I have always been determined not to defile myself. However, I would fail. The temptation would become too great and I would give in. I had not learned Daniel’s technique. I had not learned that in order to remain undefiled, I must be filling myself with something.

I believe that humanity was made to crave beauty, to seek after beauty, to be inspired by beauty. The problem lies in where we seek out this beauty. The beauty the world has to offer is fleeting and shallow, yet fatally addictive. As a Christian, I knew that to seek out this beauty is sin. Therefore, I would avoid it all cost. However, I would not feed my soul. I went on a beauty strike. I had wrongly determined that my desire to seek out beauty was wrong as well and that I must suppress it and then my battles with lust would subside. So I consumed no beauty. My soul would gasp and writhe and eventually the pangs would grow too strong and I would give in to lust because it was instantaneous, even though I knew it to be fleeting. What Daniel understood and I did not was that my hunger for beauty was not and is not sinful. It is essential to fight the very thing I hate. Daniel understood that if we are to remain undefiled, we are to not only say no to temptation, but we are also say yes to the things of God. We are to forcefully and violently, if necessary, seek after that which is of God. If Daniel had approached not defiling himself like I had, he would found himself in the same boat, eventually giving in and eating the king’s food, out of starvation.

There are too many men in the church (and I used to be one of them) who only passively avoid evil. They pray that their God-given desires to be consumed by beauty and passion would magically disappear, that they somehow be spiritually castrated, so that they no longer desire anything, but be numb, passionless and pure; because that’s what they think God demands. They think He demands passionless, joyless obedience and if killing off the desires in order that we achieve that, so be it. Friends, this is not so. God does demand obedience, but He demands obedience that is joy-filled and full of emotion. We must be aware that our desire to know and chase after beauty was instilled in our souls by God Himself, so that we might know and chase after Him, the one True Beauty.

That is the key to fighting lust, or any other sin. I believe at the heart of sin is the desire to find beauty in things that are not God. So, if we not only avoid the sin, but we then feed our souls the five-star meal of God, we can remain undefiled. We must feed this raging craving in our souls for beauty, but not with the shallow and fleeting beauty the world offers, but with the only True Beauty and that is found in the person of Jesus Christ. His crucified image is beautiful to the Christian soul. His bloodied body is a marvelous wonder to ponder. It is the key to our continued determination and our continued purity. Fill your soul on Christ and you will never be let down. The beauty of the cross is the only truly satisfying images available. Satisfy your soul cravings on Him and His glory shines even brighter.

Perhaps you are saying to yourself, “but I’ve already defiled myself, is there any hope for me?” YES! That’s one of the marvelous affects of the Cross. Defiled, dirty, sinful people are counted righteous, if they call on the name of Jesus. Call out to Him and regain your purity that was lost long ago. The Cross is the means by which receive justification before God (a clean slate) and it also the means by which we receive sanctification (keeping our slate clean). God is the means for all things and we are just recipients of grace. It is God who supplies, so that none can boast or be owed by God. It is God who grants an undefiled life. Pray earnestly to receive it. Remember, James, the brother of Jesus said that we have not because we ask not. Pray for purity…perhaps God ordained that your purity come through asking for it.

Determined to be Undefiled

~sdg